| Azad Sharma

It is currently estimated that over one million people aged 65 and over always or often feeling lonely, with 17% of those who live alone seeing their families or friends only once a week*. In what seems like a less-related observation, many of us work out at least once a week in gyms all over the country sweating furiously for better health. Working out might sometimes look social but there is nothing stopping us feeling lonely or isolated in a gym full of people.

Is there perhaps a solution to these problems? Can one activity help another? What happens if part of your workout included using your energy to benefit your community, to give the elderly a helping hand and some company? With the new year approaching, many of us will be swept up in the January fever of starting a new fitness routine and the majority of us will probably fall off the wagon come February. Is there an easier way to look after our own health and the wellbeing of our community?

We think that gyms are a waste of energy. There are many neglected tasks and people in our communities that need that energy. We want to bring these things together.

–GoodGym Representative

The answer, in short, is yes there is! After a successful entry into the 2008 Social Innovation Camp, the brains behind GoodGym won first prize and by 2010 had established themselves as a company and worked in partnership with Bethnel Green Ventures to deliver a pilot programme. GoodGym helps people get fit by doing good. They are a group of runners that combines regular exercise with helping local communities. GoodGym take a “fine grain” approach to volunteering, where participation is based on frequent low impact activities that are integrated usefully into our lives. If you work out with GoodGym you can work for your community by including the following as part of your routine:

  • Run to change a lightbulb for an older person so that they can see in the dark
  • Run to do some gardening so that an older person can feel independent again
  • Run to move furniture so that an older person can get their home back in order

The elderly are given a role in this workout too, referred to as ‘coaches’ who motivate the ‘runners’ to get their exercise done. We loved reading about this shift in perspective and in social action, where social good becomes part of your exercise regime. Cardio can be good for the ‘heart’ in more ways than one!

GoodGym is now open to everyone in 47 areas across the UK and has hundreds of people interested in setting up GoodGym in their area. The latest proposal is to work in London Borough of Sutton. If you’d like to start a GoodGym in your area you can find out more on their website or follow them on Twitter.

*Statistic provided by GoodGym

Photos by GoodGym’s Facebook

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